Russia continues to “reinforce” the military presence amassed on its southwest border with Ukraine, despite repeated calls from the international community to scale back its military support of Russian separatists, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday. The concentration of troops and military vehicles and equipment is “north of 10,000” personnel and represents capable “combined arms capabilities” within 50 kilometers of the Ukrainian border, which is closer than the initial Russian buildup this past spring, Kirby added. The US has previously charged Russian military vehicles have been detected entering Ukraine, and recently accused the Russians of firing rocket artillery from Russia over the border into Ukraine to support separatist military activity. “Russia continues to support the separatists,” Kirby said Friday, which are continuing to “destabilize the region.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit US European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, on his way to India for discussions with Gen. Philip Breedlove, EUCOM boss and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. While in Germany, Hagel will receive briefings on events in Ukraine, as well as a status report on cooperation activities with NATO allies, said Kirby.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.